Cheaper Is Only Better When It Works Right

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There is quite a bit of confusion surrounding these new cost saving cellular plans. How do they work? Do they work? Will I really save as much as they say I will? As confusing as it is, when a blog runs a sponsored post, it gets even harder to understand. Like one of our favorite Windows Phone sites, Windows Central, recently ran a ‘sponsored’ article from FreedomPop. While we love what FreedomPop does, it’s not compatible with Windows, so why on earth would they be running an article about it? In an effort to help you out, here’s a 5 second rundown on what to expect from these lower cost providers.

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Probably the most popular service around at the moment is the aforementioned FreedomPop. FreedomPop runs on the Sprint data network and your existing Wi-Fi connections. Using a VoIP system, FreedomPop offers users 200 minutes of talk, 500 text messages and 500MB of LTE/3G Data. Where FreedomPop saves the cash is by using software to offload your voice calls to a data connection. In reality, you aren’t getting a cell phone or free minutes, you are getting a data enabled connection to use when you aren’t within range of a usable Wi-Fi network.

FreedomPop kicks off their plans with the freebie noted above. For an extra $7.99 a month, you can upgrade to 500 minutes of talk, unlimited texts and the same 500MB of data. For $10.99 a month, you increase to unlimited talk and for $19.99 a month, you double your data to 1GB of high speed and unlimited 3G after that. Overall, for those looking for an emergency phone, a cheaper overseas calling solution or other cost cutting means of communication, FreedomPop may not be the best choice. For those that want a dependable Wi-Fi phone without a commitment or an expensive out of pocket monthly cost, FreedomPop is the perfect choice.

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Republic Wireless is next on the list. Republic is a pseudo wireless carrier. That’s not a bad thing though. By using the Sprint cellular network, yes, that is important to note, they offer a few different steps for people starting as low as $5 a month. That $5 a month garners you unlimited talk and text over Wi-Fi connections only. For $10, you add the ability to make calls and send texts over the Sprint cellular network. For $25 you add unlimited 3G data access to the mix. Upping your monthly expenses to $40 allows you full ‘unlimited’ access to the Sprint LTE network.

Republic runs off a special hybrid calling system. It uses a combination of cellular and VoIP technology. It’s probably the most balanced plan of the cost cutters out there, but honestly, if you need the higher speed cellular data, it doesn’t save you much over the competition. The big talk of savings uses the $5 and $10 plans for their examples. What they don’t tell you is that you can accomplish a bit better deal using Google’s Hangouts and a data only SIM from someone like Red Pocket Mobile to create the same type of setup. While Republic Wireless does offer you the ability to roll back to cellular calling when needed, their lack of data on the $5 and $10 plans makes them somewhat less attractive to the smartphone user.

Perhaps if you were coming from a feature phone and aren’t used to the ‘data anywhere’ lifestyle or if you are in an area with a heavy saturation of public Wi-Fi, the $10 plan would be a great fit for you and your smartphone. If not, the $25 plan speeds are usually very slow and the $40 plan puts you in a range higher than Boost Mobile and many other prepaid service. For those that want the ability to use the Sprint cellular network to make voice calls and send text message and that alone, the $120 a year cost and the $99 Moto E make Republic Wireless a complete steal, even if there isn’t a Wi-Fi connection to be found anywhere.

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At just 5 cents a minutes and 2 cents a text message, Ptel Mobile offers up quite a few lower cost options. The MVNO operates on the T-Mobile network and has $100 refills available that last up to 365 days. To put things in perspective, that $100 refill gets you 2,000 minutes of talk per year or 5,000 text messages. For example, if you talk about 100 minutes a month, and send about 500 texts, your bill will land at around $15 a month. That $100 top up will last you over 6 months. When you pair the Ptel Mobile PayGo plan with a lower cost smartphone from Amazon or other reseller, your year long cost can be well under the $250 mark.

If you need something a bit more ‘unlimited’ than  that, you can plop down a $20 bill every month for a nice unlimited talk and text plan on that same T-Mobile network. If you don’t mind running a bit slower on the data front, you can purchase the $25 a month unlimited plan that includes unlimited talk, text and 2G data. Yes, it’s slow, really slow, but it does keep you connected almost everywhere T-Mobile has service. For $35 you start jumping into the LTE range and back out of extreme value plans just like Republic Wireless above.

For the light user, the Ptel Mobile PayGo plans are a serious money saver. For the heavier user, they will cost you quite a bit more than some other options. Keep this in mind when you think about going to the PayGo route, it might be a much better rate for the light user, even if you have a month or two where you go over your average minutes. Ptel Mobile has a great calculator on the rates page to check out how much you can expect to spend on this contract free offering. Check out the Ptel Mobile website and see if you can start saving with their PayGo offering.

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Going LTE and Google Hangouts is something that many people are slowly discovering. The lower cost of cellular data with plans like the Red Pocket Mobile, T-Mobile based $10 per GB monthly data only plan, can make for one cheap bill for users. With a good Wi-Fi calling solution like Hangouts Dialer, that small chunk of LTE data from Red Pocket Mobile can easily substitute for even the best phone service on the planet. For just $10 a GB, that works out to quite a few texts and a ton of voice calls, you can keep rolling all month long – as long as you stay within ear shot of that Wi-Fi connection most of the time.

The data only option wasn’t really a viable plan even just a few years ago. Fortunately, companies like Google have poured their resources into making it better and better. VoIP quality has increased and some carriers are even beginning to roll out VoLTE services, which is essentially a voice over internet service optimized for mobile networks. A simple plan like the $10 per GB Red Pocket Mobile plan can certainly save users money. By pairing it with Google’s Hangout services and a good home and work Wi-Fi network, the savings will quickly pile up for you.

The bottom line on any of these free or lower cost cellular options is that there is always going to be a trade off. If you have had Verizon’s monster coverage for the last 10 years and expect the same level of coverage with a $10 a month plan, you’re going to be disappointed. If you are sick of the $150 a month bill that Verizon keeps dropping on you and are willing to give up a bit of that service for a bill that is 1/3 that size or less, you owe it to yourself to check these options out. Even just bringing your out of contract Verizon phone to a Red Pocket Mobile CDMAV plan will save you $100 a month. Hit up the links below and see what carrier fits your needs best and how you can start putting more cash in your pocket and less in your carriers.

Links:  Red Pocket MobilePtel MobileRepublic WirelessFreedomPop

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